How We Started

Growing Places Farm & Energy Park (GPFEP) was inspired by the confirmed necessity for an innovative mentoring program that would address the needs of high school teens in Lewis County. Research and reports indicated that youth in Lewis County were experiencing low on-time high school graduation rates, poor economic conditions and a growing tendency toward juvenile problem behaviors.

In 2006, the Lewis County Mentoring Project (LCMP), a coalition of representatives from public, private, nonprofit and student sectors, formed to look for a solution. Early in its first year, LCMP brought together United Way of Lewis County, Centralia School District and Big Brothers Big Sisters to launch the only one-to-one school-based mentoring in the county. This partnership won a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will support the first three years of a project that matches responsible high school students and adults with students in grades 4 – 8.

Next, LCMP looked for a program that could meet the needs of at-risk youth in high school. After numerous visits and conversations with GRuB (Garden Raised Bounty) in Olympia, it was determined that this model would be a good fit for the community and that GRuB staff would help mentor the start up of Growing Places Farm. The addition of the Energy Park will bring a distinctive feature that will set the Lewis County program apart and boost its sustainability.

Another grant opportunity presented itself and a new partnership rose to the occasion. Lewis County Juvenile Court took the lead to apply for funding from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice. The application was successful and received its full request of $459,000 for partial program staffing and start-up.

On October 1, 2008, Growing Places Farm & Energy Park became a reality. This was the beginning of unlimited possibilities to nurture area youth and strengthen the community. The seeds have been planted.

We recognize the significant contribution of our founding director, John Smith who provided the concept and implementation and funding of Growing Places Farm & Energy Park.

We also recognize the pro bono support of the development of our initial website, Evan Calkins who runs Intrinsic Studio. Please visit his website and contact him when you need a web presence.